Professor Miles Reid, of the Department of Mathematics has been made a Fellow of the Royal Society. Distinguished for his contributions to algebraic geometry, in which he has been an influential figure worldwide, his early work advanced the theory of surfaces of general type. Together with Mori, he laid the foundations for the theory of minimal models of threefolds and the classification of higher dimensional varieties. He has developed important new relations between the geometry of algebraic varieties and commutative ring theory, with implications both for representation theory and theoretical physics. Despite this accolade, Professor Reid says that his family has no real background in science: "we had a Chemistry set for Christmas when I was about nine and my older brother taught me how to make and set off various home-made explosives!"
The recent report "SET for success: The supply of people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills" (available at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/roberts) conducted by Sir Gareth Roberts, identifies a number of issues in education policy, as well as in the labour market for science and engineering skills, which need to be addressed in order to secure a strong future supply of scientists and engineers in the UK. The ongoing debate on the value of science to society was furthered by PM Tony Blair, who in his speech at the Royal Society on 23 May, proclaimed that ‘Science Matters’: "the strength and creativity of our science base is a key national asset as we move into the 21st century.”
Professor Reid would agree but he has firmly held views on education and science policy. After serving as chief exam secretary of the Department of Mathematics for four years, he writes: "Together with our students, we are trapped in a treadmill that has grown up around us without anyone planning it, where genuine issues of learning, teaching, science and student welfare are all sacrificed to ridiculous rituals of exams and preparing for them, a system having no detectable purpose other than upholding a self-justifying class division of graduates into firsts, seconds, thirds and fails. Instead of offering students a challenge and rewarding original thought, we put a ceiling on their aspirations and reward poverty of ambition."